Red Bank Catholic High School has announced a new initiative that will give students both flexibility and pre-college preparation across several innovative subject areas.

Called “Academic Pathways,” the program offers Red Bank students the opportunity to enhance their learning experience, allowing for customization in specific concentrations – much like declaring a major in college. The program begins with the 2021-22 academic year, though students can enroll up to their junior year.

The goals of the program are to engage students beyond the classroom, enable them to adapt to a rapidly changing global landscape, and promote Catholic-based, hands-on learning by doing and exploration.

“We are seeing more and more parents – and students – asking about specific course paths at open houses,” said Margaret Boland, RBC’s director of learning and innovative design. “Parents are much more focused on their students’ futures than ever before, and they are looking to see if we have the courses that will help their children follow desired career paths.”

Karen M. Falco, RBC associate principal, describes the program as “a flexible exploration of opportunities within the academic program and practical experience to guide students in an area of interest.”

Subject concentrations include Engineering and Design; Criminal Justice and Law; Medical Science and Health; Entrepreneurship and Business; Humanities and Social Sciences, and Entertainment, Arts and Media.

Working under the principle, “We have to go forward; we have to adapt,” RBC principal Robert Abatemarco and Falco spearheaded a committee nearly two years ago to determine how the school could best equip its students in a rapidly changing world.

The committee was presented with best practices from “Preparing Schools and School Systems for the 21st Century,” by Gary Marx, an author and expert in future-oriented leadership. Committee members said they recognized that today’s academic preparation must include innovation, flexibility and adaptability as they prepare RBC students for ongoing societal changes and their future career goals.

“Children today are growing up faster. They have more experience, travel globally, are involved in more activities,” Boland said. “In the near future, our students are going to be working differently, too, and we need to prepare them for that.”

Among the 21st century trends detailed in the book that Red Bank Catholic focused its attention: personalization, ingenuity, and depth, breadth and purpose of education.

“Today, there is more of a concern for students when it comes to, ‘What am I going to do? What are we using our education for?” Boland said. “We need to help them answer those questions.”

“Let’s get to the depths of who these students are and explore their gifts and talents in new ways,” she said, adding that though students may change their course/interest of study, the program lays a path for the exploration of interests.

As the program continues, the school’s standing Pathways committee will continue to monitor its success and evolve the curriculum when needed with feedback from faculty and students.

Information on each Pathway is thoughtfully presented by sections, beginning with the “Inspiration” or mission statement for the course collection, followed by a list of courses under the header “Exploration,” and finally a collection of possible “Destinations” or career paths students can pursue following the Pathways experience.

After completing a minimum of four courses with his or her focus area, each student must create a “Capstone” – an internship or final project “where the student exhibits quality and depth of knowledge in the selected Pathway,” Falco explained. “Upon completion of a Pathway, the student’s college application packet will include a letter that describes the Pathways program, with the name of the completed Pathway, and the specific course titles that were taken to meet [its] requirements.”

Declaring a Pathway, officials said, “is an additional option for students who want to pursue a career path or passion. … These opportunities will help students cultivate their capabilities, assess and solidify career goals, and help refine choices for postsecondary work.”

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